Teaching Examples

What they’re doing online (Part 2)
August 7, 2006, 12:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Continuing in the list from Friday (originally via Poynter):

6) “The movement online brings with it time-management and workload issues.”

This is one of those “Well, YES, obviously!” statements. But what the Poynter text fails to make clear is that at some of these newspapers, the editorial staff has been cut right down to the bone already, with one person supposedly doing the work four people used to do. Now the editor or publisher is turning to that last surviving worker and saying, “Oh, by the way, can you do video too?” I think this is a bit bigger than a time-management issue. Let’s ask for a reality check.

Of course, the conditions vary widely from place to place. I talk to a lot of people who are doing multimedia online who LOVE their job. They are not slumping around and complaining about overwhelming workloads. Let’s not forget them, and let’s also not ignore those poor souls who are expected to complete 16 hours’ work in an eight-hour shift.

7) “In television, the ‘broadcast-quality’ barrier.”

The issue, we were told, is what to settle for, short of traditional standards for on-air quality. If a site posts 15 videos a day, a number of those will be raw footage.

This was one of the more interesting bits in the Poyner report. It made me consider that maybe posting non-traditional (non-broadcast) video is for TV news shops the equivalent of the whole blog debate for the print shop folks. I’m always quick (maybe too quick) to scoff at my TV colleagues for their insistence on top-quality equipment. I understand that the students need to learn certain techniques to prepare them for TV news jobs. But because of the equipment focus, hundreds of TV students graduate with zero know-how relevant to online.

For example, a colleague of mine at a California university journalism program just told me that even the broadcast students are permitted to use school-owned video equipment only when they are enrolled in a broadcast class that requires its use. When they’re in another class, trying to shoot video, they have no access to tools. This is the way it is in many programs. Now, logistically this makes sense. But for the goals of education, it’s ridiculous.

If there were cheaper, low-end cameras available for use outside the class assignments, students could learn much more. But the broadcast faculty do not want such “inferior” equipment to be bought or used.

8) “Do froth and snarkiness have a place at media sites?”

The trend to which Poynter refers is a bit murky here (read their post to get a clear picture), but what’s missed is that when a newspaper frantically jumps on any new bandwagon to try to get more people coming to the Web site (like pushing reporters who have rarely read any blogs to start writing blogs of their own), they end up producing junk. Just because something works great for YouTube or Slate or even the Guardian doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you — especially if you don’t really understand fully what it is and why it works for those other guys.

9) “Convergence strategies diverge.”

Joint ownership of the newspaper and a television station makes some collaboration and lots of cross-promotion logical. Where there isn’t an ownership connection, papers are increasingly pulling back, ditching “sister station” deals and asking, “What’s in it for me?” as they consider individual collaborations with several stations in the market.

Radio is on the rise as a no-fuss way to promote the paper itself or one of the newspaper’s “branded” subject-area experts.

I’ve been hearing this for at least a year — newspaper folks say they have not garnered any real benefits from their TV partners, and as soon as they can cut the ties, they will.

If you read any text about convergence, you’ll see the standard disclaimer that convergence can be business, content, or skills (as in “backpack journalist”). The business version of convergence seems to have moved a lot of money from some pockets into others, but not much else. The “convergence” that needs to happen — inside the heads of journalists, editors, news diorectors and owners — has not happened.

10) “Mingling as managing.”

How to manage change: That’s what people are still scratching their heads about. Maybe that’s because the newspaper business is famously bad at managing — and all personnel issues.

We did hear more than once about a trend over recent months to include online editors in all the key news meetings during the working day. Newsrooms are also being reconfigured to interweave the online and traditional media staffs together in the same space.

Duh … it took the newspapers 10 years to figure that out? At least in some shops, the managers are finally supporting some opportnities for training the journalists. Every survey of U.S. news people shows that the reporters, designers, photographers, etc., believe they need more training to do their jobs well, and every survey likewise shows there is precious little money provided for training.

I want journalism to survive and prosper. But the newspapers may have already done too much internal damage (to themselves), and if the newspapers fail and disappear, it’s the fault of their own shortsighted practices.

Can journalism survive without newspapers? Well, I certainly hope so.

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5 Comments so far
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Re video, it’s also fun when they expect you to produce it without buying, you know, cameras and editing software and such.

Comment by Anonymous

I wonder about the day when there’s a shift in who is assigning the stories. Will there come the day in my lifetime when it’s the print editors who are “invited” to the key news meetings? If news Web sites become significantly more profitable and the print edition become more sparse, who will be the editor-in-chief? Someone who comes from a print background or a Web background? Hopefully, such a shift will neither be traumatic nor result in an erosion of the journalism.

Comment by Danny Sanchez

You know, the guys at the San Jose Mercury News are using iMovie to edit all their video. They aren’t the only ones. Since iMovie comes free on every new Mac, and most photojournalists I meet have a reasonably new Mac laptop, the only thing holding you back is a camera.

A lot of low-end digital still cameras have a movie capability. You won’t be able to shoot for more than a few minutes, but it’s a way to get started!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Yeah, but the low-end still cameras don’t record sound.

My point stands: It’s ridiculous to expect people to do things without at least minimal tools with which to do them.

Comment by Anonymous

Actually, low-end still cameras with video capability do record sound. I have a nice little pentax that I love because it’s my easy point and shoot for personal use and it records just audio or video with audio…but it is limited to a couple minutes depending on the memory card I am using.

Comment by Anonymous

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